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Trip report – The Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

Paddle destination: Horicon Marsh (southern aspect)

 

Launch/Land locations:

Horicon Marsh put in

Launch – Green Head Road N8600 Green Head Rd, Mayville, WI

Land – One Mile Island Trail Head and parking 204 N Nebraska St, Horicon, WI

 

Type of environment:

Hoircon Marsh

Did you know Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States? The marsh itself covers approximately 32,000 miles – majority of it is water. There are several small islands throughout the area – some are easier to walk upon than others (depending on water height/recent rain). The put in at Green Head has a rather large parking area – more like a dirt road with ample parking on the side of this road. This is a dead-end road, and there is a cul-de-sac which makes navigation with a trailer a bit easier. The launch has a gradual grade into the water, and you may need to get your feet wet. This section of water is the Rock river, and following it west will eventually lead you into the Horicon. One may see some smaller boats with trolling motors through this section of river, although rare. Traveling along this stretch, the trees and vegetation is pretty numerous and offers nice protection from the winds. As one exits this forest of trees, the water area opens up and the scenery changes dramatically. Didn’t really notice any current while on the water, until nearing the take-out area near Horicon. It was fairly gentile as it flows south towards the city. The take out at One mile Island, is slightly tucked away on the western side of the main channel. This parking lot is rather sizable and can hold easily 40+ cars. Total one-way distance is about 8 miles.

Hazards:

Horicon group leaving

One of the biggest hazards is the size of this place, and the ever-changing water levels throughout the year. This can be a unique maze, if one decides to venture away from the main flowage. I would highly recommend downloading this navigation map http://tinyurl.com/y3agdjc8 to aid your progression. A compass, GPS, or other tracking device will also be helpful. There are landmarks one can see from the seat of the yak – but the marsh can act as a cat tail maze at times. Once one gets nearly midway in to the marsh, a water tower in Horicon can be seen and can be used as a general reference point. Best suggestion I have is to go with someone who knows that marsh VERY well – or even go with the Horicon Marsh visitors center – as they offer guided tours throughout the year.

The navigation map provided displays the paddle route one should take, there are marked signs on this path, however at times can be rather difficult to see.

If it is a windy day, or chances for a breezy day – some may find it a challenge doing this route. The cat tails and scattered islands only offer slight protection.

There are the occasional tour boats which follow the main channel going north to south – these may be a good reference point to follow, should you need to find your way to the take out.

Horicon Marsh

Wildlife:

Abundant wildlife in all aspects. So great in fact, during water fowl season approaches, hunters enjoy this place. Depending on the time of year one paddles this area will dictate what is seen and heard. The times I have gone – there was migration of spring birds and other water fowl moving into the area, and at others, the cat tails were very tall and plentiful – at times obscuring distant views.

Horicon Marsh

Skill level:

If with someone knowledgeable about the area – this is a great beginner paddle when conditions are perfect. If going the entire distance from Green Head to Horicon, this may be quite the workout on windy days. Although there are a few islands in the heart of the marsh, majority of them have a solid ground (look for very established trees) and can be good resting place. Because of the chance for facing winds, and distance of this paddle, I would not recommend kayaks shorter than 10 to 12 feet.

Horicon Marsh

Other notes:

Definitely check out the Horicon Education and visitors center while you are there. There is such great information about the geological design of the marsh, how the marsh was used throughout the years, the mistakes humans learned when they attempted to change the landscape, and what the future of the area holds.

 

For the Paddler Within….

Planning a Kayak Trip

Planning a overnight kayak trip, what sources are available, and how to pack

 

Like most trips, whether by air or by land, most people have a destination in mind. Getting there is part of the journey. There is always some sort of planning, and ensuring you have the right items packed along – as well as a few extra things you really don’t need. Planning a kayak trip is very similar in ways – although some of your resources may be a bit unique. Today, I will talk about how to plan an overnight/multiple day kayaking trip, and just how to use the resources available to you.

 

Resources (water/charts/weather)

Before heading to a destination for a put-in location (the place one launches a kayak) – it would be best to see if it is indeed possible to launch from your “ideal” spot. One way to do this is to research your planned trip – use the web, ask fellow paddlers, or read some books about various destinations. More than likely, there has been someone who has done the trip you really want to do. “Scouting” a launch and landing spot is ideal and if you live close enough, much of this can be done while on land. For times where the water’s edge can not be observed by land (either because of elevation, vegetation, private property, etc…) using wither Bing or Google maps may assist you. Many times, one can zoom in and actually see where there may be obstructions in the water, rapids, or sometimes how low the water may actually become. One can also map out the distance along the route (Bing maps has this option if you right click on the map). If heading along the coastal waterways (Great Lakes or Oceans), and need an actual chart – a few pages to get you started are https://www.oceangrafix.com/search/map and https://www.charts.noaa.gov/ChartCatalog/MapSelect.html The second location allows one to download the image in PDF format which can be then laminated and placed on the front deck for use. This is assuming one can read a nautical chart, and understand what the symbols mean (that will be a future blog).

Great, you have got some information for the planned trip, and know the distance, the launches and landings, some possible hazards in the water, and also have talked to a few fellow paddlers who have first hand experience about this trip. That is one step out of the way, on to additional planning.

Understanding the type of water conditions will be an item in which you really need to be concerned about. Both large bodies of water (Great Lakes and oceans), and moving water (rivers/creeks) have their own dynamic responses to the environment – and are ever changing. These changes can happen hourly, or within days. Paddling in water in which is above your comfort level is dangerous, especially if you are not mentally or physically ready for what lays ahead.  I will provide some information where you may obtain certain water conditions (both rivers and open water locations).

For the river kayaker – American Whitewater  provides a quick viewing summary for the level of the water (Red – low water, Green – running water, and Blue – high water), as well as normal classification type (Class ! being the lowest on the rapids scale). Click on your state, and view the rivers – this is an alphabetical listing of most, if not all the rivers in each state.

American Whitewater water level

Another site which is helpful is  a site from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Once selecting your state and the desired river, a graph will load, displaying the past and current water levels (and one may see how it compares to flood stage).

NOAA charts

For open water (Great Lakes will be described here) I like to glance at the NOAA page to see trends, current, and what they have predicted – although I have found the accuracy not the greatest (about 75% accurate). It does have many options in which one may view (winds, waves, current, surface temps) – as well as place the data in an animated state.

NOAA Great Lakes

 

I really like the following site for data – as I first became aware and used this for about two years now, and have found the predictions (for about 6 days out) to be at least 90% accurate, and for the actual hour of paddle to be 98% accurate. Although it doesn’t have the data for the currents, like NOAA – the information WindFinder  provides has exactly what I need, and I CAN trust it, completely! When going to the main page, just type in a city – once there, click on forecast for detailed information (one can save the location as a favorite, and quickly navigate next time)

Windfinder

Great, now you have a destination, planned out the route, and know what the weather and water action will be like. Ensuring you have the right kayak for the right trip is yet another essential key component for a safe trip (please review my blog  http://tinyurl.com/yy4gng6v to ensure you have the right yak for the right water).  I will be referring to packing a sea kayak, and some items to bring along for an extended trip in the following paragraphs.

 

Packing yaks

When planning on what to pack – think about if you really need it, or will use it during your trip. There are essential items in which you will need, depending on your route, location, time of year, water temp/air temp, and length of trip. Kayak tripping is much like ultra-light backpacking – keep it light and well balanced. Since there are numerous items on the market, the intention of this blog is not to inform you which item is better than the other – but please do your own research around either kayak or backpacking specific items. Don’t under pack safety equipment or rescue items – and have them easily accessible. Food and water filtration devices are wonderful to have along and will provide you the energy and nutrients needed throughout your journey. Cooking items can be a challenge, as there are various items and systems out there to choose. If attempting to safe room and weight, dehydrated meals might be a good option – just as long as one has access to water. Clothing should be lightweight, yet warm – synthetic is a way better option than cotton. Sleeping gear should include your tent, sleeping pad/mattress, and sleeping bag. Dry bags are key items to place all your items into – to ensure these do not get wet. The bags serve a dual role: storage (both inside the yak and in the tent) and transportation of the items (from yak to camp site)

Packing that Yak.

Packing the items in the yak does take time and some prep work. I like to lay out everything next to my yak at home on the grass and divide it all in two fairly equal weight groups, so the yak is balanced. For the items which I know I will not need until I get to the actual campsite, and I will tend to pack these items first into the ‘nose’ of both the bow and stern. For safety related items, I will place these into the day hatch, and let my fellow paddlers know what is in there (usually the first aid kit, repair kit, flares, smoke, etc….) I tend not to place anything on my deck, except for my spare paddle, compass, chart, and camelback water bag, as I reserve this space for preforming kayak assisted rescues.

Once I preform a dry run packing the items in the yak a few times and figure out what works, I will then place all these items in dedicated IKEA-like bags, and place them in the car. When I get to the launch spot, I will bring the yak down to the water’s edge, then bring all the bags, packing the hatches with the dedicated bags. When arriving to the campsite, it is just a reverse process. When possible, I try not to drag (or carry) a loaded yak up onto the shoreline (unless the landing spot is really not an ideal unloading zone because of terrain, waves, or winds). If I must, I will aid the assistance from someone else to help carry each other’s yak up onto solid ground.

Yes, there is a bit of research and planning for overnight trips with a kayak. When done correctly, and time and time again – you learn what works, and what doesn’t. Even with the best packing, sometimes Mother Nature places a damper on the actual camping experience. Although this reduces the fun factor, it allows one to make a mental note of that ‘one item’ which may have all the difference for next time. I was on a multi-day paddle trip years ago and our group decided it would be best to each carry a Duraflame log over to the island (and these are not a lightweight item). I fortunately had space, and agreed to carry one. It was actually nice to have these items a few days later, as the evening rains made most of the tree branches difficult to light on fire for our evening camp fire. I have adapted this notion to a smaller fire starter, as well as reduced the weight – it is still nice to have the ability for a  camp fire, even with a light rain. It makes all the difference… as hopefully these tips did too..

 

For the Paddler Within……

The Paddler’s diary/log

A paddler’s ‘diary’ or ‘log’ book is a means in which one can keep track of your adventures on the water. It is a written account of your paddling and has detailed data (as much or as little as one wishes) of what you encounter. This information can be a great resource for you, or others in the future, as I’ll explain this later.

What info does one place within the log? That is the beauty of a diary, it is totally user friendly and you may place any details within which you can refer back to in a future paddle. Here are some notions in which I find useful to have. This is a capture of a portion of a log from 2017.

Date          city         temp   wind        location   yak    paddle        miles hours       training      notes

4/25/2017green bay525lily lakezegulgreen31.5fine tuning rollsfront recovery 8/standard/angel 5, tulik
5/3/2017green bay575the bayzegulgreen5rollspadle with ken, dry
5/4/2017howard605duck/bayzegulgreen6wfrv, rollssafety interview, dry
5/6/2017horicon5510horiconzegulgreen8rolls x 6NEWP, Dry
5/8/2017two rivers435lake mzegulgreen6rolls x5Dry
5/13/2017kewaunee585lake mzegulgreen6rolls x10tulik
5/14/2017high cliff605lake winnyCetusgreen103rolls x6FVY, Dry
5/17/2017wrightstown735foxzegulgreen5rolls x5gusts 10, tulik
5/22/2017port washington6210lake mCetusgreen8gusts 15, 1 to 1 1/2 footers
5/24/2017green bay5810baycetudgreen1.5open water rescueTRR, Dave gets rescued
5/26/2017Door county645lake mCetusgreen13.5rollsx4 plum/pilot  island ,dry
5/27/2017door county635lake mCetusgreen12.7rollsx3ellison->sister->ellison bay,dry
5/28/2017door county635lake mcetusgreen/euro7.5rolls/butterfly/fogsandbay ->south->return,dry
5/29/2017Door county655 to 10lake mCetusgreen6.8rolls/butterfly/rainto cave point return,tulik

I like to make this a spreadsheet format – as I find this the easiest to maintain. Most of the categories are self-explanatory. But I shall expand on them.

Temp- This is the air temperature, not the water temperature (however, I do include this in my planning for paddle trips).

The winds I find useful to record – as this will dictate either the direction I go, location I paddle from, or just how far I am away from shore (depending on the wind direction). For both the temperature and wind speed, I will use a local city weather report or other various resources at hand. (Where to obtain reliable weather conditions/water conditions will be in a future blog.. stay tuned).

For both the yak and paddle sections – I like to practice with the different items at my disposal and the conditions will dictate what I use.

Miles – For planning a trip (in a location in which one has never been to before) it is always a good idea to map out the mileage beforehand.  I find Bing maps helpful in this, as one can zoom in, right click and use the map distance option. I have found this to be pretty accurate, if I maintain a relatively straight line. Otherwise, I can research various sites to get the distance from fellow paddlers who did the area before me. If I really am curious, I will bring along a GPS tracker and map out the exact mileage.

Both the training and additional notes- I like to have this placed in there to remind me of some paddling specific training I did, or making account of unique paddling environments I encountered. For the cooler weather paddling – I like to list what type of protective clothing I wore (or how many layers I wear underneath) as this becomes very useful deciding what to wear when it isn’t always 75 degrees and sunny. There are trials and pitfalls trying to figure out what to wear in the cooler weather – and trying to figure out that clothing combination without either overheating or being too cold does take time, and patience. Having a record of what did or didn’t work may alleviate some future headaches.

Why is this important information to have? As mentioned, I like to use this as a personal reference guide. This has numerous benefits not only for personal use, but for others as well. It provides me enough information to plan future return trips to areas in which I love to paddle. If someone asks me, “Say, have you ever done this stretch – just how far is it anyway.. how long did it take you?” I can answer that by just looking at my spreadsheet. In my early years of paddling, I would have never thought about creating one of these. It was only just before my interest of becoming an instructor did I learn about doing this. Good thing I did create one a year before undergoing my certification, as the Instructor Trainer (the person who instructs the Instructors) asked all students for proof of their log. Some didn’t ever create a personal log, until that day – but believe me, they maintain one now. For you see, as an ACA Instructor, this log acts as a resume for your paddle experiences and training. I do not know of any Instructor who isn’t proud of showing off their Paddle diary/log to whomever asks wishing to view it.

Make it a personal goal – starting this year- to keep track of your paddle activities. You will find it a joy to reflect back to your activities years later, as your expertise increases. When seeking out an outfitter or going on a trip with a company – as the lead person about their experiences both as a guide and/or instructor. There should be no reason they would object to providing documentation of their paddling experience to you. Wouldn’t you want your safety net to be fully competent in what they do, should the need arise?

 

For the Paddler within…….

Welcome to Silent Wake!

After several years of planning, our company is up and running. We expect to officially serve the public late April, or early May 2019 (it all depends on our winter). Be on the lookout for scheduled events to hit the pages. Please leave us feedback, questions, or comments – as we eagerly await to serve you.